His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH presides over the Annual Northern California Antiochian Women's Retreat - 11/13/2005Danville, California
This past weekend, November 11-13, 2005, marked the 10th anniversary of the gathering of Antiochian Women, presided by Bishop JOSEPH, for a retreat weekend at the San Damiano Retreat Center in northern California. The theme this year was “Cure of the Soul, Cure of the Body… The Causes of Illness and the Path to Healing” presented by Mother Gabriella, the Abbess of Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan.
The retreat center is a lovely place, on 60 acres in wooded hills of the San Ramon Valley bordering Las Trampas Regional Park with a spectacular view of Mt. Diablo. The peaceful and beautiful gardens and trees were in full fall color when we all arrived greeted by several deer. On Friday we began our retreat with Vespers, dinner and an introduction of Mother Gabriella. Mother was born in Romania and entered the monastery under Mother Benedicta Braga. She took monastic vows at age 29 and helped to found the monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God. She became the abbess there in 1992 where she continues to work and she also travels to lecture and conduct retreats.
Mother Gabriella spoke of how important it was that we all gathered as a group to focus on the heart during a retreat like this yet, the challenge and the hard work was how we would apply it to our lives once we left. Salvation is not about knowing a lot of things but about knowing God. Mother continued the theme of the retreat by giving us many insights on how we became sick as human people and our need to find wholeness in God.
On Saturday we began with morning prayer and ended with vespers, with time for many things in between. Bishop JOSEPH addressed the ladies and Mother Gabriella gave two more sessions. The ladies had time to rest, eat, visit the book store, talk with friends and take hikes throughout the reflective and refreshing day. We were also blessed to have our Spiritual Advisor, Fr. David Hovik, among us telling us about his visit to Greece and hearing confessions.
Sunday morning began with many walking and looking at deer, packing up our rooms and of course, as we have all come to love and cherish most, the celebration of Orthros and the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH, thanked Mother Gabriella, Rev Father Patrick Jackson and his lovely wife Kh. Maria for their service. He especially thanked Tamara Northway who worked so hard on the little details of this hugely successful, filled to capacity, retreat weekend. As we departed San Damiano, some for the 1st retreat, many for the 10th, there was a sense of what Ss. Peter, James and John must have experienced going down from the mountain after the Transfiguration!